To the takeaways!
1. It's (still) the economy, stupid. Asked to name the top two issues most important for Congress to address, more than four in 10 (41 percent) named the economy while another 33 percent chose government spending and the budget deficit and 31 percent offered up "jobs." What don't people really care about? Illegal immigration (5 percent), terrorism and homeland security (5 percent) and gas and energy prices (4 percent).
2. No one knows who Grover Norquist is. For all the focus in Washington on Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist, he remains an almost entirely unknown figure nationally. More than six in 10 (61 percent) of those tested had never heard of Norquist while another 15 percent had no opinion of him. Among those who did have an opinion, eight percent regarded him favorably while 18 percent viewed him in an unfavorable light. The idea that the fiscal cliff fight is a proxy war over Norquist then seems far-fetched.
3. Paul Ryan came out of the 2012 campaign smelling like a rose. Say what you will about the Wisconsin Congressman and the role (or lack thereof) he played in the 2012 election but running as Mitt Romney's VP clearly helped his national profile. Forty seven percent of respondents had a favorable opinion about Ryan while 33 percent see him unfavorably -- the best ratings of any Republican politician tested. (The only one who came close was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who was at 33 percent favorable/15 unfavorable with 36 percent having never heard of him.) While Ryan's numbers don't come close to matching the stratospheric heights of Hillary Clinton (60 fav/35 unfav), they are far better than Romney (47 fav/47 unfav) or even Jeb Bush (39 fav/38 unfav). That bodes well for Ryan's 2016 prospects.
4. People are ready for immigration reform. While it's not a top-of-mind issue (see point No. 1 above), when prompted a large majority (62 percent) support "an immigration reform proposal that allows illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship over a period of several years." Just 35 percent oppose such a measure. Asked whether they would support the children of illegal immigrants being allowed to stay permanently if they get a college degree or serve in the military -- essentially the DREAM Act that has been proposed in Congress -- 77 percent of people said they would back that measure. What those numbers mean is that if President Obama moves an immigration proposal early next year, Republicans will be hard-pressed to vote against it.
5. Raising taxes can be popular: Provided with a list of nine possible ways to reduce the federal budget deficit, two of the top three most popular involved raising taxes -- either on large corporations (65 percent support) or on households making over $250,000 (60 percent). Of course, neither tax-raising option bests the 76 percent of people who favor "cutting government spending across the board." The least popular proposals? Raising taxes on small businesses that earn $250,000 or more a year (29 percent favorable) and raising the retirement age for Social Security (33 percent favorable). What those numbers suggest is that Republicans could gain some leverage in a fiscal cliff deal if they were willing to give on the $250,000 and above individual tax increases and then focus heavily on curbing spending. That's a big "if" though.
6. The tea party fade continues: We've written recently that the tea party movement is at a crossroads and the numbers in this poll paint that reality in stark terms. Just 21 percent of people consider themselves a part of the tea party movement while 74 percent say they are not part of it. Dig further into the numbers and they are even more daunting for the tea party; 16 percent say they "strongly" identify with the tea party movement while 55 percent said they "strongly" don't. Those numbers don't spell doom for the tea party but they make clear that the idea it would/will become a broader national movement is somewhat farfetched.